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St. Gertrude the Great 1256-1302

1 Maccabees 16: Seek Kindness

Monday, November 27, 2017

Adapted from a reflection written on November 15, 2009. In memoria for my mother who always preached Killing with Kindness

The name Maccabees means the hammer and as we read through these books in scripture we experience a great deal of violence in the name of God.  These books are stories about “the attempted suppression of Judaism in Palestine in the second century B.C.  . . . [The author’s] purpose in writing is to record the salvation of Israel which God worked through the family of Matthias . . . Implicitly the writer compares their virtues and their exploits with those of the ancient heroes, the Judges, Samuel, and David”.  (Senior 550)  Portions of this book may be used when dedicating an altar . . . or when praying for persecuted Christians.  The lesson here is that living the life of an apostle of Christ will inevitably include bloodshed – whether it be spiritual, mental or physical.  Each time I pray to my Mother for a special intercession, I find myself in this story.  She, the gentlest of shepherds, realized real battles in her life.  Her slogan was: Kill them with kindness. 

St. Gertrude of Nivelles (626-659)

There is no avoiding the central message of Jesus’ life: When in doubt, exercise kindness and compassion . . . and listen for the word of God to tell us which way to turn, when to pause, when to proceed.  Tomorrow is the Feast Day of St. Gertrude.  My mother and my sister – both deceased – are named for this saint.  Both of these women had a plodding, patient persistence when confronted with evil, and they were formidable and unmoved when it came to right and wrong.  The Morning Prayer for tomorrow begins with a verse from Isaiah (30:15): By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, in quiet and in trust your strength lies.  I reflect on the betrayal and carnage we witness when we read Maccabees.  The deception of the son of Abubus who gives the faithful a deceitful welcome shakes me to the core.  There is nothing more wicked than luring in the innocent to later spring up, weapons in hand, to rush upon the loyal servant of God – thus repaying good with evil.

What do we do when we are witness to this?  We are utterly astounded as is John in today’s reading.  We go to God who tells us to shake the dust of the unfaithful from our feet and move on.  And we do as my mother always recommended: Kill them with kindness.

Gertrude the Great was a German Benedictine mystic with a special dedication to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. A number of her writings are still in publication today. Gertrude of Nivelles founded an abbey with her mother, Itta, in present day Belgium. She is the patron saint of gardens and cats. 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.550. Print.   

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 16.11 (2009). Print.  

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Psalms 35 – 37Seek Justice

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Favorite from November 12, 2009.

Yesterday we reflected on the value of seeking wisdom in times of trial.  Today we focus on seeking justice in times of injustice and these three psalms serve as a kind of trilogy of prayer.  I am struck by the titles of these songs in English first and then in Spanish.

35 – An Appeal for Help against Injustice, I am Your Salvation

36 – Human Weakness and Divine Goodness, By Your Light we see Light

37 – Fate of the Wicked and reward of the Righteous, The Humble Shall Inherit the Earth

We are lead from naming injustice, through seeking God in order that we see what is good about our situation, to arrive at the result of God’s way of being.  In God’s world, the wicked suffer consequences for their descent into darkness and secrecy while the faithful are rewarded for their perseverance and patience.  When we feel pummeled by life we might want to turn to these three prayers and give them our full focus.

Rescue me from these ravening beasts; preserve my precious life from these lions.

If we can identify the wicked ways of others then we know when and where to step cautiously.

Do not allow my treacherous enemies to gloat over me; do not permit those who hate me without reason to wink their eyes at me.

Humans fear that the darkness will encompass them; yet we have been promised the light.

Sin speaks to the wicked one in the heart; . . . there is no fear of God.  He deludes himself with the idea that his guilt will not be discovered and hated.

In the end, nothing remains hidden.  Those who engage in darkness forget that the light will reveal all.

Oh Lord, your kindness extends to the heavens; your faithfulness to the skies . . . With you is the fountain of life, and by your light we see light.

We must appeal to God to show us how to find strength through our kindness.

Do not fume because of evildoers or envy those who do wrong.  They will wither quickly like the grass and fade away like the green herb.  Put your trust in the Lord and do good . . .

Sinking to the level of the wicked only makes the darkness more intense and brings it closer.

In a short while, the wicked will be no more; no matter how diligently you search, you will not be able to find him. 

We must not allow our anxieties and preoccupations to close in on us.  Seek God in order to find stillness and quiet.

But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy an abundance of peace. 

We must be meek as Jesus is meek, humble as The Lamb is humble.

Two words struck me from today’s closing prayer at Mass which I will carry with me for awhile: Courage and Peace.  If we have these two, we have all.  This Psalm Trilogy today is a roadmap for our exodus out of fear and our arrival at promised serenity.  We must have Courage in our God, for this is where we find a small pocket or a tiny island of tranquility . . . even amidst the trials and darkness that we suffer because of the wicked.    When we find ourselves in pain at the hand of evil, we must take courage and seek justice . . . in order to arrive at peace.

 

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1 Thessalonians 1:1-10: Convictions of Steel

Monday, September 4, 2017

There are days when we need to hear words of encouragement. Today Paul fills that need.

Every time we think of you, we thank God for you. Day and night you’re in our prayers as we call to mind your work of faith, your labor of love, and your patience of hope in following our Master, Jesus Christ, before God our Father.

There are nights when we need an affirming hug, a kiss of peace. This noontime we anticipate this affirmation of love.

It is clear to us, friends, that God not only loves you very much but also has put God’s hand on you for something special. 

There are hours and minutes when we have taken on more than we can carry. This evening we take strength from the words of Paul.

When the Message we preached came to you, it wasn’t just words. Something happened in you. The Holy Spirit put steel in your convictions.

There are places and people challenging us beyond our limits. Now we rely on Paul’s urging to follow Christ.

You paid careful attention to the way we lived among you, and determined to live that way yourselves. In imitating us, you imitated the Master. Although great trouble accompanied the Word, you were able to take great joy from the Holy Spirit!—taking the trouble with the joy, the joy with the trouble.

There are obstacles we cannot overcome, ruptures we cannot heal. Now we trust that the Spirit will restore and transform.

The news of your faith in God is out. We don’t even have to say anything anymore—you’re the message! People come up and tell us how you received us with open arms, how you deserted the dead idols of your old life so you could embrace and serve God, the true God. They marvel at how expectantly you await the arrival of God’s Son, whom God raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescued us from certain doom.

There are moments when we do not know how we move forward, and yet . . . we rely on our convictions of steel that we are loved by the Living God.

When we read varying versions of these verses, we discover the gift of God’s presence, and our own convictions of steel.  

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Proverbs 12: If You Love Learning

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The school in which I teach has a front portico with seven columns as a direct, overt message that we seek knowledge. (See Proverbs 9.) The school motto is: Veritatem prosequimur – Pursue truth. For an institution of learning, the image of Wisdom building her house is apt. Today we explore several verses from Chapter 12 as we reflect on the value of taking advice.

If you love learning, you love the discipline that goes with it—
    how shortsighted to refuse correction!

Acceptance of a valid critique is a sign of strength rather than weakness.

You can’t find firm footing in a swamp,
    but life rooted in God stands firm.

Building our spiritual house on Christ is a sign of our confidence in The Word.

The words of the wicked kill;
    the speech of the upright saves.

The gossip of bad people gets them in trouble;
    the conversation of good people keeps them out of it.

Sharing The Word with others is an invitation to the Spirit.

Fools have short fuses and explode all too quickly;
    the prudent quietly shrug off insults.

Living The Word brings us fortitude rather than fear.

Evil scheming distorts the schemer;
    peace-planning brings joy to the planner.

No evil can overwhelm a good person,
    but the wicked have their hands full of it.

Living as Jesus teaches is a sign of courage rather than submission.

Prudent people don’t flaunt their knowledge;
    talkative fools broadcast their silliness.

Sharing The Word in the Spirit is a sign that the Kingdom of God is here. The Kingdom of God is now.

When we compare other translations of these verses, we find that a love of learning is essential for workers in the Kingdom.

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1 Corinthians 2:1-3: Polished Speeches

Tuesday, February 14, 2017isaiah-30-21

I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified.

In our present world we might well hesitate to speak or act for fear of abandonment or retribution. Paul and Isaiah give us words we need to hear.

God says: If you do not speak up for my little ones because you worry about finding the words for a polished speech, you go astray. When you live in me, my Holy Spirit will give you the words you will need. If you do not act in defense of the marginalized because you fear you do not have enough courage, you wander far from The Way. When you live in Christ, my Son will give you the strength and persistence to act as you know you must act. Rest in my Spirit and you are never without resource. Abide in Christ and you are never alone. Remain in me and you will never be without all that you need to see you through this day.

Isaiah says: If you wander off the road to the right or the left, you will hear his voice behind you saying, “Here is the road. Follow it.” (30:21)

When we compare various translations of these verses, we find the strength to persevere in the face of obstacles, and graceful words for our simple but polished speeches.

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Matthew 5:5: The Inverted Kingdom – Part III

jesus-washing-feet

Jesus Washing the Apostles’ Feet

Friday, January 13, 2017

Jesus proposes that we forego power and wealth, pleasure and honor. Today we consider the quality of meekness that Jesus so willingly exhibits as he walks among us.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (NSRV)

This vision of the world sees gentleness as a quality of those who are close to God.

Happy are those who are humble; they will receive what God has promised! (GNT)

This picture of the world sees kindness as an essential trait of those who live by God’s design.

Those who are humble are happy. The earth will belong to them. (ICB)

Giotto: Christ Washing the Disciples' Feet

Giotto: Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet

This view of the world sees humility as crucial to the living of God’s plan.

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. (MSG)

This picture of the world sees physical possessions as stumbling blocks to intimacy with God.

The Gospels show us how God’s Word teaches us that meekness as authentic strength. They show us that Jesus returns anger with kindness, and responds to provocation with piercing questions. They show us that the Spirit nurtures sacrifice rather than acquisition.

How do we find strength in our meekness, and courage in our kindness? How willing are we to wash the tired feet of others?

Michal Splho: Jesus washing the Feet of his Disciples

Michal Splho: Jesus washing the Feet of his Disciples

When we compare varying versions of this verse, we better understand how humility provides us with far more peace than our possessions do.

For more reflections on meekness as enacted by Jesus, enter the word in to the blog search bar and explore.

To read a reflection about meekness as strength, click on the first image above, or visit: http://blog.newadvent.org/2013/05/meekness-is-not-weakness-meekness-is.html 

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Ezekiel 13False Prophets

Tuesday, May 31, 2016wolf_in_sheeps_clothing

Say to those who prophesy their own thought: hear the word of the Lord . . . I am coming to you, says the Lord God. 

Yesterday we reflected on evil leaders.  Today we spend time praying and thinking about false prophets.  Who are they in our lives?  How have we been false prophets ourselves?

Say to those who prophesy their own thought: hear the word of the Lord . . . I am coming to you, says the Lord God. 

Yesterday we reflected on how evil leaders operate, how they appear to working for good and may even use the vocabulary we come to expect from those who walk in the light.  Today we meditate on how we might be lured into following the broad road rather than the narrow path.

Say to those who prophesy their own thought: hear the word of the Lord . . . I am coming to you, says the Lord God. 

Yesterday we reflected on those who surround evil leaders to enable them in their dark work.  Today we think and pray about those whose gestures and actions appear to have divine inspiration but do not.

Say to those who prophesy their own thought: hear the word of the Lord . . . I am coming to you, says the Lord God. 

We notice that God does not remain silent when evil operates.  We see that God speaks to darkness.  We understand that even the dark ones are offered the opportunity to allow their pain to transform them.

Say to those who prophesy their own thought: hear the word of the Lord . . . I am coming to you, says the Lord God. 

When we are doubtful about false and true leaders and prophets, we might remember that our courage, strength and perseverance lie in and with God.  When we read scripture, when we join in liturgy, when we try to do as Jesus does, when we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit . . . this is how we will know what to think, what to say, and how to act.  And so we pray.

When silence is more attractive than fidelity to the truth: Our God, remember us.

When approval is more desirable than perseverance in good: Our strength, abide with us.

When safety is more appealing than suffering for righteousness’ sake: Our Lord, transform and heal us. 

When we celebrate and commemorate the gift of the Holy Spirit, we remember that it is impossible for us to discern  false and true leaders and prophets on our own.  We can only maneuver life’s treacherous waters when we rely on the Spirit who will tell us where to go and what to say.  If we want to live with less fear, if we want to transform the lives of our enemies and even our own lives, we might remember: Say to those who prophesy their own thought: hear the word of the Lord . . . I am coming to you, says the Lord God. 

This is a promise worth remembering.

Adapted from a favorite written on May 31, 2009.

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Job 8: Taking the Dare – Part III

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Job and his Friends

Job and his Friends

God’s trust in humanity is so enduring that the Creator takes the dare from Satan. How might we return this amazing trust? God the parent guides and protects us every waking moment and every sleeping hour. We need not eradicate all of the evil in the world; we need only keep our eyes on Christ and do as he asks; we need only open ourselves to the miracles of the Spirit and follow.

God’s hope in us is so strong that Christ returns for us. How might we learn from this strength? Christ reconciles and guides us. And so must we heal and shepherd others. We need only bloom where we are planted, reap the harvest that God has sown.

God’s love for us is so infinite that the Spirit resides eternally in us. How might we return this love? By tending to the marginalized, the broken-hearted and the bereft, by entering into transformation, and inviting others to join us.

In the marvelous story of Job, his friend Bildad cannot believe that Job suffers innocently. He cannot fathom why God allows misfortune to befall one of the ardent faithful. “Does God mess up?” he asks. “Does God Almighty ever get things backward?” He encourages Job not to hang his life from one thin thread, not to hitch his fate to a spider web. Bildad sees Job’s misfortune as punishment, and so might we if we do not read closely. After consideration we understand that Job suffers precisely because God trusts him, believes in him, and loves him. God restores all that Job loses and more, and this is a gesture that Satan cannot understand in his narrow, stingy world. God trusts that Job will not turn away in desperation or fatigue, and this is an attitude that Satan cannot countenance from his pathetic, narrow perspective. God allows Job to choose between hope and desperation, and this is a love that Satan cannot comprehend with his tragic, empty heart.

If God is so willing to take Satan’s dare, so willing to trust humanity with the enormity of God’s infinite goodness and mercy, might we then be willing to follow Jesus? Might we be willing to open ourselves fully to the Spirit?

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Psalm 27: Fearless Trust

ark

A rendering of the Ark of the Covenant

Fourth Sunday of Easter, April 17, 2016

The followers of Yahweh erected a tent to house the ark they created to hold their tangible remnants of their relationship with the Lord: stone tablets holding God’s ten pronouncements of the Mosaic Law, manna provided by the Lord during the Hebrews’ desert wanderings, and the staff that Aaron used to mystify Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt whom the enslaved people of God escaped. The Israelites replaced the tent with a glorious Temple to house the ark, sacred scrolls of God’s word to them. More than once this Temple was overrun, brought down, and reduced to rubble and a single, solemn wall of prayer. Today followers of Christ carry this tent, this Temple within; and it is in this sacred interior space that we find courage, hope, strength, faith, persistence, peace and joy. As we move through Eastertide, we bolster ourselves for the journey ahead as we continue our pilgrimage.

The New American Bible gives a wonderful title to these verses: A Psalm of Fearless Trust in God. We might benefit from the grace of this special prayer if we reflect carefully on its words as we pray them.

moses tabernacle

A depiction of the Moses Tent


When we are anxious or troubled, we recall . . .

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    I will fear no one.
The Lord protects me from all danger;
    I will never be afraid.

When we are overwhelmed and distraught, we remind one another . . .  

Even if a whole army surrounds me,
    I will not be afraid;
even if enemies attack me,
    I will still trust God.

When we are lost or abandoned, we remember . . .

I have asked the Lord for one thing;
    one thing only do I want:
to live in the Lord’s house all my life,
    to marvel there at his goodness,
    and to ask for his guidance.

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A model of the Jerusalem Temple

When all seems lost and dark, we remind one another . . .

In times of trouble God will shelter me;
    God will keep me safe in the Lord’s Temple
    and make me secure on a high rock.

When we are alone or bereft, we call out . . .

So I will triumph over my enemies around me.

    With shouts of joy I will offer sacrifices in his Temple;
    I will sing, I will praise the Lord.

Hear me, Lord, when I call to you!
    Be merciful and answer me!

When we falter, we encourage one another . . .

When you said, “Come worship me,”
I answered, “I will come, Lord.”

The Wailing Wall, Jerusalme today

The Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem today (The Wailing Wall)

When the world closes in and we find no exit from sorrow, we pray . . .

 Teach me, Lord, what you want me to do,
    and lead me along a safe path,
    because I have many enemies.

Don’t abandon me to my enemies,
    who attack me with lies and threats.

 When we are rescued, we rejoice . . .

I know that I will live to see

      the Lord‘s goodness in this present life.

Trust in the Lord.
    Have faith, do not despair.
Trust in the Lord.

woman-praying-darkWhen this present life seems as though there is no evidence of God’s presence, let us remember Christ’s temple of light and peace that we carry within.

Psalm 27, one of my favorites, has been set to music by many. As we pray today we might listen to the Shane and Shane rendition at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndZsEDuCVAQ or a version by James Block: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJDF6z2EuPQ

If there is time in the next several hours, enter the word TEMPLE into the blog search bar and consider how God’s plan has brought us from enslavement through the desert to a solid place where we rejoice . . . and yet remains with us when great loss or great sorrow overtake us. It is God’s abiding love that brings us this fearless trust in the temple of God that remains within. When we reflect on these images or listen to these or other audios as we pray, we allow this fearless trust in God to rest in us today. Wishing all of you peace and joy on this day and all days.

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